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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Iowa

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 17, 2018

Cedar Rapids Woman Pleads Guilty to Federal Fraud Charges after Stealing the Identity of an Elderly Widow

Stole Nearly $200,000 from the Widow and her Son, a Deceased Navy Seal

A Cedar Rapids woman pled guilty today in federal court in Cedar Rapids.

Robin Ann Bertelli, age 60, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was convicted of one count of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.

In a plea agreement, Bertelli admitted that in 2013, she began a romantic relationship a former Navy SEAL, who lived with his elderly and widowed mother in rural Central City, Iowa.  Bertelli soon moved in with the widow and her son.  The widow was unable to walk to her mailbox to get her mail.  Bertelli stole mail from the widow, including mail from her financial institution, Collins Community Credit Union (“CCCU”).

In December 2015, the former Navy SEAL received an inheritance of approximately $18,000 from a relative and deposited this inheritance into his checking account at CCCU.  In February 2016, Bertelli and the former Navy SEAL travelled together to Puerto Rico for a vacation.  On that trip, the former Navy SEAL unexpectedly died in Puerto Rico.  Bertelli reported to others that the former Navy SEAL went swimming, hit his head on a rock, and accidentally drowned.

Family members of the former Navy SEAL ultimately discovered that Bertelli had stolen blank CCCU checks from the former Navy SEAL and his mother.  From July 2013 through September 2016, Bertelli fraudulently made 63 checks payable to herself, inserted a dollar amount, and forged their signatures.  Bertelli deposited these forged checks into her own account at NXT Bank, fraudulently causing transfers of funds from the CCCU accounts of the former Navy SEAL and his mother into Bertelli’s account.  The three transfers from the former Navy SEAL’s CCCU account all occurred after the date of his death.  Bertelli stole a total of $191,500 from the CCCU accounts of the former Navy SEAL and his mother.  Bertelli used the stolen funds for her own purposes, including to purchase a luxury car.  

The prosecution of Bertelli is part of the Department of Justice’s Elder Abuse Initiative.  In March 2016, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa was selected as one of ten districts nationwide to launch regional Elder Justice Task Forces. The Elder Justice Task Forces reflect the department’s larger strategy and commitment to protecting our nation’s seniors, spearheaded by the department’s Elder Justice Initiative.  The Elder Justice Initiative coordinates and supports the Department’s law enforcement efforts and policy activities on elder justice issues.  It plays an integral role in the department’s investigative and enforcement efforts against nursing homes and other long-term care entities that deliver grossly substandard care to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.  The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa has rededicated its efforts and resources to investigate and hold accountable those who have been involved in activities incompatible with ensuring that the state’s more vulnerable citizens are treated with dignity and respect.

Sentencing before United States District Court Judge Linda R. Reade will be set after a presentence report is prepared.  Bertelli remains free on bond previously set.  Bertelli faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years’ imprisonment and a possible maximum sentence of 32 years’ imprisonment, a $1,250,000, and 5 years of supervised release following any imprisonment.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy Vavricek and was investigated by the Linn County Sheriff’s Office and the United States Postal Inspection Service. 

Court file information at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl

The case file number is 18-CR-30-LRR.

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Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Identity Theft
Component(s): 
Updated May 17, 2018